ConCourt judgment on right to protest hailed as victory for
democracy

ConCourt judgment on right to protest hailed as victory for democracy

The Constitutional Court has declared Section 12 1 (a) of the Gatherings Act, which makes it a criminal offence for more than 15 people to gather without notifying authorities, unconstitutional and invalid.

The Constitutional Court. Picture: Gia Nicolaides/EWN.

JOHANNESBURG – Civil rights groups have described Monday’s Constitutional Court judgment on the law that governs the right to protest as a victory for democracy.

The apex court has upheld the Western Cape High Court’s ruling declaring a section of the Gatherings Act unconstitutional because it limits and criminalises peaceful protests.

Earlier this year, the High Court overturned the convictions of 10 coalition members who were found guilty of convening an illegal protest in Cape Town in 2013.

However, the police minister went on to appeal the matter.

The Constitutional Court has declared Section 12 1 (a) of the Gatherings Act, which makes it a criminal offence for more than 15 people to gather without notifying authorities, unconstitutional and invalid.

The Right to Know Campaign (R2K) says it was ludicrous of the police minister to oppose a ruling that found it unconstitutional for a group of people to be criminally charged for convening a peaceful protest without notifying the authorities.

R2K’s Thami Nkosi said: “The grounds that which the minister of police had was flawed. We are just elated to be vindicated. This is a victory primarily for democracy and a victory for our society to be able to have their voices heard.”

He says they will now seek legal advice on how to assist the 10 activists who were unlawfully convicted.

“It’s very unfair to have had people’s lives being on hold for almost five years.”

The Social Justice Coalition’s Axolile Notywala says Monday’s judgment is a victory for poor and working-class communities.

“Who have been criminalised and targeted for excising a democratic right [to protest].”

The police minister has been ordered to pay the costs of the appeal and the apex court has also declared the arrests and convictions of the 10 activists unlawful.

The ConCourt says while people have a right to protest the rights of those who intend to act violently during demonstrations will be revoked.

(Edited by Thapelo Lekabe)

Source: EWN

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